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Explore San Jose and Santa Cruz in this six-day tour of Silicon Valley. Take Highway 1 through Capitola and Aptos to Watsonville, then head over the Santa Cruz mountains to Gilroy and I-5 to Santa Nella and Fremont.
Day 1: San Jose
San Jose is the third largest city of California and the recognized capital of Silicon Valley. In 1777, it was the site of the El Pueblo San José de Guadalupe whose primary task was providing food to the soldiers quartered at the Monterey and San Francisco presidios – the Presidio of San Francisco. In early days of statehood, the city was one of California’s capitals.
The Children’s Discovery Museum, 180 Woz Way in Guadalupe River Park close to downtown, (408) 298-5437, is a child’s delight where they can interact with the exhibits. A must visit is the Tech Museum of Innovation, 201 South Market Street, (408) 294-TECH (8324), where Silicon Valley’s latest ideas are tested in interactive exhibits. Winchester Mystery House, 525 south Winchester Blvd., (408) 247-2101, is a 160-room Victorian mansion that Sarah Winchester, of the rifle family, created over 38 years. It began as a farmhouse with only eight rooms in 1884.
Downtown is the Peralta Adobe, 184 W. St. John, (408) 993-8182, residence of Luis María Peralta whose Spanish-deeded Rancho covered over 46,000 acres of the East Bay in 1820. At 1600 Senter Street in Kelley Park, southeast of downtown, is the San Jose Historical Museum, (408) 287-2290. A 25 acre complex with historical shops and homes reflecting the city at the turn of the century.
Two other favorite tourist sites are: Paramount’s Great American Entertainment Park, (408) 988-1776, in Santa Clara off 101 and Great American Parkway, and the Rosicrucian Park, Museum & Planetarium, 1324 Naglee Ave., (408) 947-3636. It is considered the best Egyptian and Babylonian collection of artifacts in the West.
Day 2: Santa Cruz
Depart on I-880 south, taking Highway 17 over the Santa Cruz Mountains to the beautiful beach city of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is called the last of the real California beach towns and not only does it offer plenty of sand, sun and surf, it’s also the birthplace of mainland surfing in the United States.
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, (831) 423-5590 is home to two National Historic Landmarks: the Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster built in 1924 and the Looff Carousel, built in 1911. Take a self-guided historical walking tour, and try the funnel cakes, cotton candy and other treats just steps from the sand.
Another way to enjoy the coast is to take a cruise in Monterey Bay on the 70 foot, sleek sailing yacht, Chardonnay II, (831) 423-1213. An interesting tourist site is the Mystery Spot, 465 Mystery Spot Road, (831) 423-8897, where the laws of gravity are defied.
Visit the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe, Mission Plaza and School Street, (831) 425-5849, the only surviving building of Mission Santa Cruz, and the best preserved Native American residence at any of the Alta California missions. A replica of the original Santa Cruz Mission, established in 1791 and dedicated on its completion in 1894, is at can be found at 130 Emmet Street near the original Mission site and offers weekday masses; (831) 426-5686.
To see breathtaking coastal redwood trees, take Highway 9 through the towns of Felton and Boulder Creek. In Felton, the Santa Cruz Big Trees & Pacific Railway Company’s Roaring Camp Railroads (831) 335-4484, takes passengers on a three-hour round-trip excursion to Santa Cruz’s Boardwalk along a route dating back to 1875 during summertime; year round, an hour-long steam train ride gives passengers an up-close look at old growth redwood trees on a trip through the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Over seventy wineries of the Santa Cruz Mountains are located throughout the region; some have tasting rooms, but may require reservations. Check with the Visitors Center about tasting hours or call the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association, (831) 685-VINE.
Day 3: Santa Cruz
Choose from an array of historic walking tours; maps are available from the Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council, 303 Water Street, Suite 100, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, (800) 833-3494 or (831) 425-1234. Bicycling is a popular mode of transportation here and there are plenty of rental shops.
The Santa Cruz Surfing Museum, on scenic West Cliff Drive is housed inside the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse land chronicles over 100 years of surfing history in Santa Cruz. The museum overlooks Steamer Lane, one of the best places in the country to surf.
Golf courses in the area can be found from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Aptos and Watsonville, including the Alister Mackenzie-designed Pasatiempo Golf Course, ranked among the nation's top 100 courses by Golf Digest and the championship par-72 DeLaveaga public golf course, known for its natural beauty and challenging layout. Check with the Visitors Center about access to golf courses.
Day 4: Capitola / Aptos / Watsonville
Head south on Highway 1 through Capitola, Aptos, and Watsonville. Capitola Village boasts a Mediterranean flavor with outdoor cafes and charming boutiques. The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, 10,000 acres of undeveloped, second growth redwood forest, has over 40 miles of hiking trails.
Interesting sites include an unusual, twisted grove of redwoods, remnants of an old sawmill, and the epicenter of the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Located on Aptos Creek Road; access off Soquel Avenue via State Park Drive and California State Route 1.
Across California State Route 1 off State Park Drive, the SS Palo Alto (the “cement ship”) is docked at the end of the fishing pier at Seacliff State Beach and is beloved by locals. The Watsonville area is known for its agriculture: strawberries, mushrooms and apples. From an early morning bird watching excursion to an afternoon at a u-pick farm or museum or sunset stroll on an expansive beach, Watsonville has much to offer.
Throughout Pajaro and Santa Clara valleys, watch for roadside stands where fresh produce in season is available. Pick up a free Country Crossroads map showing farm locations from any area visitor information center.
Day 5: Gilroy / Santa Nella
Take 152 from Watsonville over the Santa Cruz mountains into Santa Clara Valley and Gilroy, the “garlic capital of the world.” Along the way, you pass several well known wineries: Fortino, Hecker Pass, Thomas Kruse, Conrotto, Summerhill, and Live Oak.
In Gilroy, visit Gilroy Museum, (408) 848-0470. Continuing east on 152, look for one of the best known roadside stands in the state, Casa De Fruta, 9840 Pacheco Pass Highway, (831) 637-7775. It’s an experience! Proceeding to Santa Nella, you pass San Luis Reservoir State Recreational Area, three man-made lakes popular for fishing, swimming and boating.
Pick up I-5 north to I-580 to Livermore. Altamont Pass, north of 580, is home to hundreds of energy generating wind turbines. Camelot Park, 2400 Kitty Hawk Road, at Airways Blvd. and I-580, (925) 447-PARK, is a family fun place. Also here is the well known Wente Brothers Wine Cellars, 5050 Arroyo Road, (510) 447-3023. Pick up 84 south to Fremont.
Day 6: Fremont
Visit Mission San José de Guadalupe, 14th in the chain and founded in 1797, 43300 Mission Blvd., (510) 657-1797. The Mission served as a stopover for many “49ers” on their way to southern gold fields.
The town, named in 1956 after explorer John C. Fremont, has roots back to the Ohlone Natives who were here prior to the Spanish and Americans arriving in 1797 and 1840s, respectively. More information is found at Fremont Museum of Local History. Fremont had mapped a route through Mission Pass for settlers heading to San Francisco Bay area.
Visit Ardenwood Farm Historical Park, 34600 Ardenwood Blvd., (510) 796-0663, with its rebuilt Ohlone village, and the historic Patterson Mansion on the site that once was a part of a large 1850- 1880 working ranch.
Coyote Hills Regional Park, 8000 Patterson Road, (510) 544-3220, open daily, is included and offers an excellent living history experience of the Ohlone people. The city is also home to the General Motors/Toyota plant which makes the Corolla for Toyota and the Pontiac Vibe for GM.Take I-680 back to San Jose.